Keeping Fit During the Holidays

Christmas Cookies‘Tis the Season… for people like us trying to stay fit, eat healthy, and exercise to get a lot of grief from pretty much anybody and everybody else we meet. Yes, I’m sad to say it, but that’s been my experience.

This is my third holiday season since “losing a lot of weight”. Three Thanksgivings and three Christmases and soon to be three New Years later, I feel like I can call myself a survivor. But it hasn’t been easy…

I guess my first year was probably the most risky. I had lost 50lbs in 3 months. I felt great about my accomplishments. And I had gotten it into my mind that I wanted to go out an use my new body to do things I hadn’t tried to do before. I had been going to the gym 5-7 days a week. I had been eating very few calories. And although I kept up this routine right through New Years day, I had my eyes set on the new year being the year that I “didn’t have to lose any more weight”.As you may have noticed from other posts, I’d been overweight pretty much my whole life. When I was in elementary school, I was just a little heavier than average. I always wore “Husky” jeans; and by junior high school I was definitely overweight, and probably borderline clinically obese. I did have one short stint of “getting fit” in my senior year in high school, where I went to the gym and lifted weights and tried to diet, but that only lasted a couple of months.

Everyone else in my family has also always been overweight. Mom and Dad have always struggled with their weight, and my sister and brother also all started putting on weight out of high school and have struggled their entire adult lives with their weight.

So when I showed up for Thanksgiving and I’d already lost 35+ lbs (18% of my body weight), they were supportive but nobody really wanted to believe it was going to last. When Christmas came around and I was down more than 50lbs (25% less of me!), people were a little more talkative. It was a combination of supportive, curious (How did you do it?), and maybe even a little bit of unspoken jealousy. But the consistent theme, for whatever reason, was “now you’re done right?”

Thanksgiving DinnerI got through the parties and the family gettogethers by trying to restrain myself… Only one serving of everything instead the typical family tradition of four or five trips back to the buffet table (ok, I’ll admit it I went back for seconds but only for my favorite dishes). I tried to keep my servings small, I tried to listen to my stomach.

If you compare my results relative to the average American, I probably consumed 4,000 calories those days as opposed to 8,000 calories consumed by typical Americans during Holiday feasts.  But more importantly I kept up the exercising throughout the holidays.

At the time, I didn’t yet own a bike, and I wasn’t yet running. I hadn’t yet started dreaming of the idea of someday doing a triathlon, a 5km, a Marathon, or an Ironman!?!… I depended on my gym and that trusty “recombinant bike with arm thingys” (as I called it). I was glad that my gym was open on Thanksgiving day (yes, I went in the morning and worked out for an hour before we loaded up the car to head down to the family feast). I was also glad it was open Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas, I worked out both those days.

I made it through that first holiday season. I didn’t gain any weight, and went into my first full year of “not being overweight”. I still hadn’t gotten bit by the endurance sports bug, that was still another 9 months away. Instead I spent the next winter, spring, and summer learning to Scuba Dive, playing with my kids, and continuing to stay active. My gym workouts tapered off to 3 days a week. My diet returned to a more average healthy diet of 2000 calories a day.

Throughout the first year, I kept the weight off, I kept my mind balanced, and I enjoyed life. When I think about it now, I think of it as the beginning of my new life, my current life.

This year, I see things even more clearly. When I rode my bike 30miles in the brisk autumn Thanksgiving morning air, I felt more alive and more at peace than I did the first Thanksgiving morning workout. Sure, that first year, I felt good, but it’s even better when you can enjoy a workout in the open air.

As I rode past other people out on the trail that morning, other cyclists, other runners, families out for walks with their dogs, I felt a bond with them, an awareness that we were collectively doing something very special for ourselves and our families. We were actively working against the pull of sedentary gluttony that is slowly killing our entire country. It’s not easy getting out there and exercising, when the rest of the world is curled up in their pajamas eating Christmas treats and drinking hot cocoa, but it’s the healthy thing to do.

I won’t ever go back to the old me. Life is good here in this life.


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